South Fresno residents sue City of Fresno over industrialization, environmental concerns

CBS47 News

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – South Fresno neighbors are suing the City of Fresno over environmental concerns, alleging the city continues prioritizing industrial developments over their health.

“Residents tell us they cannot open their doors without dust flying in. They can’t tell if it’s a knock on the door versus a heavy-duty truck that’s passing their house, that’s making their house vibrate,” said Ivanka Saunders, a policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, one of the entities behind the lawsuit alongside South Fresno Community Alliance. 

In late September, the City Council approved the Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) for the General Plan. The PEIR analyzes air quality, traffic and how other toxic exposures could affect a neighborhood due to a proposed development.

“That General Plan designates thousands of acres of land in South Fresno for industrial development, including land currently occupied by residences and places of worship and land surrounding schools, parks and other sensitive receptors in some of the most pollution-burdened neighborhoods in the state,” the lawsuit reads.

The city looks to the PEIR before approving new developments. The lawsuit directly challenges the report and asks the city to go back to the drawing board.

“It was done in a manner to streamline an environmental review specifically for opening the doors and greenlighting more permits for more development without truly looking at what type of mitigations need to be in place,” said Saunders, citing the need for measures regarding infrastructure and air pollution. 

Councilmember Miguel Arias represents South Fresno and acknowledges his district has some of the worst air quality in the state. He said he’s been working to change this over the last two years.

“We’re launching the largest solar panel farm in Southwest Fresno, we’re building a new 10-acre park and we have stopped approving distribution centers without consent and approval of residents that have to live by those distribution centers.”

Arias also referenced a settlement from earlier this year with South Fresno residents over the extension of the Amazon plant, which addressed concerns like improving residents’ water supply.

“We’ve already applied for state money that would allow us to connect the residents near those distribution centers to city water and sewer at no cost to them.”

Advocates said their concerns go beyond one specific project and reiterate the city’s environmental report falls short of what’s required by law. Arias said the legal battle will have to play out in court but insists Fresno is making progress on addressing families’ needs.

“We’re working on finalizing the details for a commute benefit program that’s gonna allow us to fix homes that need to be improved based on the amount of truck traffic going through,” he shared. 

According to a city spokeswoman, “The environmental studies and findings adopted by the city consist of over 4,300 pages and 46 mitigation measures that are designed to increase current protections for all residents from impacts during future growth citywide.”

The lawsuit has also been sent to the California Attorney General’s office.

There is no court date set at this time.

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